Miami-Dade County

Miami Herald wins Goldsmith Prize for ‘Innocents Lost’

Carol Marbin Miller, Herald investigative reporter
Carol Marbin Miller, Herald investigative reporter

Miami Herald reporters Carol Marbin Miller and Audra D.S. Burch won the 2015 prestigious Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting for their series, Innocents Lost, a year-long project that chronicled how nearly 500 children died of abuse or neglect over six years in families who had a history with the Florida Department of Children & Families, the state agency designed to protect children.

The Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School announced Tuesday night it had awarded the $25,000 prize to Marbin Miller and Burch. Also recognized: reporter Mary Ellen Klas, designers Lazaro Gamio and Kara Dapena, videographer and photographer Emily Michot and investigations editor Casey Frank.

The series led to sweeping changes in child-welfare laws across the state. The project included a searchable database detailing the children’s stories.

Alex S. Jones, director of the Shorenstein Center, presented the prize: “The stories and the database put a human face to those children. And it rocked Florida.’’

The Herald published the series in March 2014. It sued DCF three times to get the records behind the children’s deaths; it won two of the three suits.

“We are delighted by this recognition,’’ said Aminda Marqués Gonzalez, executive editor and vice president of the Miami Herald. “Most important are the changes that have started to take place in the system to protect children.’’

Marbin Miller, who has covered DCF for years, said something had to be done on a larger scale after writing about dozens of cases.

“A series that could have been dry and flat and talk about policy issues wasn't because Audra so viscerally elevated the storytelling,’’ Marbin Miller said.

Both thanked the Herald for committing to the project.

“They didn't have to,” Burch said. “They chose to invest in this project."